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I was invited to give a talk last week for an event in Zug. I carefully prepared some stories and personal anecdotes, some informative and inspiring tidbits of information, and a little advice with the audience members in mind.
Just before I got up to speak, the president gave me the most wonderful and complimentary introduction I’ve ever had. That was unexpected, so much so that it blew me over!
To put it graphically, my dragon (saboteur) harrumphed and screeched upon hearing those “undeserved” words of praise about me as it angrily thrashed about, and then, with one swift movement of its long jagged tail promptly knocked me off my feet!
If you were there that evening, perhaps you sensed my dragon lashing about in the room or perceived my moment of struggle. Needless to say, I lost my bearings. Needless to say, I lost my grounding and my mental clarity too.
The audience was waiting for me to speak. I had to act quickly, but the words that came out of my mouth were not the ones I had chosen to speak, and the tone and quality of voice wasn’t mine! It was the voice of someone who just got knocked down by a vicious dragon.
After about 20 seconds (which felt like half an hour), my inner voice spoke to me. It said just two words, “Begin again”.
In that instant I took a deep breath, took my attention away from the pain I was feeling from my saboteur’s blow, looked to my audience, and said “I’m sorry, I lost my train of thought and I’d like to get it back again.”
I acknowledged the dragon in the room and swiftly brought my attention back to the individuals sitting in front of me, and what I had come to tell them. I began again…
This time I found my voice and my words, and was able to connect with the audience members. My dragon left the room because of my resolve to persevere. I also received some wonderful feedback from audience members that evening, who really appreciated my talk.
We all have a saboteur or inner critic. The saboteur is an archetype or psychological pattern derived from historical figures, such as the Mother, Child, Trickster, Servant, as identified by Carl Jung, who maintained that these archetypes are a part of the “collective unconscious”.
The saboteur is a survival archetype, one that we all have. While the actions and words spoken by the saboteur may seem downright cruel, and it will do anything to get our attention(!), its purpose is not to sabotage us.
According to Caroline Myss, “It’s purpose is to help you learn the many ways in which you undermine, or betray, yourself…The saboteur’s fears are all related to low self-esteem that causes you to make choices that block your own empowerment and success.”
If my dragon holds a key to unlocking my own power and success, then I must continue to face it and make it my ally.
What I learned from my dragon (saboteur):
I must learn to accept big complements wholeheartedly with gratitude, and not shy away from them. I must honour my knowledge and experience as a speaker and know that I am more than enough. I must remember that in case of a mistake, I can come back to my breath and begin again. I must value and cherish my capacity to move and inspire people with my words and my voice!
Now it’s your turn!
Instead of feeling wounded and embarrassed by your saboteur, consider its actions and words carefully. If looked at objectively and with curiosity, you just might discover a key to unlocking your power.
Questions for Reflection, Discussion or Journaling
- How conscious are you of your saboteur?
- Are you able to recognise other peoples’ saboteur?
- If your saboteur were a physical being, what would it look and sound like?
- What things does it do and say?
- What’s your saboteur trying to teach you?
- In what ways do you undermine your own success?
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Like a boomerang, in speaking you get back what you send out (e.g., words, tone of voice, emotions).
Do you ever ask yourself “What did I just say?”, “Did those words come from my mouth?” If you do, this is an indication that when you’re speaking you are reacting automatically (i.e., according to subconscious habits or behaviour patterns). Do you ever wish that you hadn’t spoken those words in the first place? If that’s the case, this could be an opportunity to change your habits by speaking more purposefully.
“The game of life is a game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy.” Florence Scovel Shinn
Take the example of Tara, a senior manager who was considerably stressed out at work because she feared that she and her team wouldn’t reach their goals. Her own boss frequently reminded her of the importance of the goals she had to achieve, which she interpreted as a warning that she had better succeed! Tara also believed she had a lot to prove having been recently promoted to a higher level within the company.
In her attempt to control the situation, she followed up with her team members constantly, often requesting updates in the minutiae. She frequently said things like, “Where are you with that deal? Tell me precisely! Did you follow up on that problem we discussed?”, with an exasperated and angry voice. Since starting the new job 9 months ago, it had become a routine.
At one point she became aware of the routine (as if observing herself from outside), and realised what her words and angry voice must sound like to her staff. Suddenly, she was witnessing their reactions, their confused facial expressions, and saw that they were frustrated and exasperated with her constant questioning.
Unwittingly, Tara was transmitting her anxiety to her staff through her angry reactions, which created stress for them and more stress for her. Like a boomerang, the stress and anxiety she was expressing through her voice was coming right back to her! With the awareness of this bad speaking habit, she decided to break it.
To break the habit, she set an intention to listen more carefully to her team members and her boss in order to understand them instead of judging them, and to trust that they would do their part of the work.
She also decided to have an open and honest conversation with her team about work stress, and how it was affecting them. She asked each employee, in turn, to share their own experience and feelings about it. Finally, she proposed that they co-design a better way of working together to alleviate stress and increase their success as a team.
Instead of reacting to her boss with stress and anxiety and passing it on to her staff in an attempt to survive, she began to speak and operate in a whole new way with the intention to thrive! By speaking purposefully, she sent out her boomerang with understanding and trust, and received more understanding and trust back.
What is speaking purposefully?
Speaking Purposefully is responding intentionally according to a desired result. It requires being fully present in the moment and listening in order to speak your truth. It’s having the courage to say what you really want to say, or to say what most needs to be said in the moment. It’s about speaking from the heart and mind, not just the mind.
Purposeful speaking begins with an intention (e.g., to understand, to be kind, to be true to yourself). Instead of just spitting out words that are running through your head, which are part of a repetitive thought-emotion-speech pattern (or subconscious habit), we can choose to speak purposefully. Instead of speaking from a knee-jerk reaction, we can pause to breathe, reflect, and respond creatively.
When we choose to speak in a focused and intentional way, we break the cycle of our repetitive thoughts, emotions and speaking patterns and create something we desire to have in our lives.
Purposeful speaking sets you apart from the rest. It’s all about BEING YOU, expressing your authentic voice in the moment with passion and purpose. In practicing purposeful speaking, you can live your values instead of stepping on them or allowing others to step on them.
Purposeful speaking is your chance to change, your chance to shine!
Suggestions for Taking Action
Become aware of your speaking habits. What words and emotions are you sending out every day? When/where/with whom are you constantly repeating yourself? Do you like what you’re getting back?
If you’re not happy with what you’re getting back…
1. Set an intention to change something about the way you speak for 1 week. Keep it simple, such as “Listen more”, “Be more relaxed”, “Speak up more”, “Slow down and breathe”.
2. Be in the present moment and follow through on your intention when speaking.
3. Observe yourself and the situation from outside. What do you notice?
4. What changed when you carried out steps 1-3?
Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how this works for you.
I’d love to hear from you!